Letter to a Friend
I have not written much in the last week . . . apparently our cat Huckle is dying. He is already a little cigarette ash of a cat, nothing left but bones inside. The veterinarian told us to leave the cone around Huckle’s head; otherwise, like a cat, he will lick his stitches and tear them open. His guts are gone. “Give him these antibiotics,” the doctor said. “Otherwise all the bacteria from his intestines might go through his wounds into his blood.” I hate to think of him poisoned by his own shit. The other cat doesn’t recognize Huckle with the cone on and the smell of a doctor’s office. Huckle can’t groom himself and so he’s greasy and has a funk. The other cat hisses at him through the glass door. He would bite him if he could. Huckle lies down on the floor and can’t close his eyes. The cone is against his cheek. I stroke his long back. He likes for me to touch his cheek, but I can’t reach it without hitting the cone with my hands, which makes him wince. These are our last days.
The Death of Huckle
It’s not exactly the death of Achilles to be poisoned by his own shit and intestines and lie on the floor of my bedroom, but still, this cat is dying about as well as anyone can hope to, staring out the window at birds he can’t see. He doesn’t know what has happened to him, what this cancer is that the vet tried to cut out of him. He doesn’t know why his spine is now obvious as pig knuckles in a dress sock. He doesn’t know why his belly is shaved. He is only a year old. This time last January he was kneading my chest with his paws, climbing so lightly onto me, asking me to open my eyes. He is about to close his eyes for good. When Achilles was a baby, his mother tried to save him from everything but failed. The Oracle offered two possibilities, the dilemma of Achilles. He could have lived a long life and died unknown, but he chose to go to war and die young, famous, bright. The world learned his name. If I could have dipped my cat in the River Styx and made his skin unbreakable, it wouldn’t have saved him from this. A lump of white paste growing in his intestines and maybe his bone marrow too. He was born in a factory and could have been a stray but instead I learned his name.